Christmas Campaigns: 9 Best Examples to Captivate Gen Z

Christmas campaigns that target Gen Z need to have the perfect balance to be successful. Here are our past favourites and why they work.
Fanbytes | Christmas campaigns

In 30 seconds:

  • Gen Z are big consumers – but they’re also savvy, harder to target, and (this year) concerned about the cost of living crisis. So how can you reach them with your Christmas marketing?
  • The best Christmas social campaigns do more than just inspire consumers to purchase – they are cultural moments in their own right.
  • This year, brands need to think carefully about the messaging in their Christmas ads. We’ve pulled together an inspiring list of Christmas campaign ideas to get you started.

The festive season is fast approaching, and with it: perhaps the most exciting time in a marketing manager’s calendar: the launch of a Christmas campaign

While the older population will consider the archetypal Christmas adverts on TV, When your target audience is Gen Z, you’ll inevitably be dedicating more time and budget to social media. It’s the best place to find them – and sell to them. 97% of Gen Z consumers say they use social media as their main source of shopping inspiration

At Christmas time, Gen Z spend 56% of their online time shopping. So, how can you ensure your products are under their loved ones’ Christmas trees on Christmas day? We’re looking at the best holiday season campaigns, and why they’re successful at capturing this younger generation’s attention – and custom. 

What kind of Christmas campaigns appeal to Gen Z in 2022?

Recent years have been somewhat rocky, to say the least. 

The ongoing effect of the pandemic, coupled with the rising cost of living crisis, means that this holiday season is likely to look different from normal yet again. Gen Z is very vocal about the effect of the last few years on them – especially on social media. The #CostOfLiving hashtag on TikTok, for example, already has over 810 million views, with users doing everything from sharing money-saving tips, to posting funny lifestyle skits, and discussing their mental health.

In 2021, the most successful Christmas campaigns and TV adverts focused on heart-warming messages of togetherness after so many loved ones had been kept apart by the Coronavirus pandemic. This year, it’s likely that brands will have to think carefully about their messages to consumers amidst the rising cost of living. 

Images of excess, while certainly common around the holiday season, won’t appeal to Gen Z this year – the majority of whom report the cost of living as their ‘leading concern’, according to new research from Deloitte. 

But – no fear – understanding what drives Gen Zers’ behaviour and perceptions can clarify the kind of messages that resonate best – and the kind of fun Christmas campaigns that they’ll enjoy.

The best social media Christmas campaigns

A recent report from Bluedot found that 56% of Gen Z consumers plan to buy their holiday goods via social media. That means it’s not just a great medium for getting their attention – it’s also a way to close a sale. 

And, since the average member of Generation Z spends 2 hours and 43 minutes every day browsing their social media feeds, you have plenty of opportunities to get their attention. 

Here’s a list of the best Christmas social campaigns: 

1. Cadbury & Cath Kidston - #AHeartfeltThankYou

Launching their Christmas campaigns with a joint giveaway, Cadbury and Cath Kidston were onto a winner with their 2021 campaign that encouraged users to share a story of someone they want to say a thank you to at Christmas. 

The result was a flood of emotive social media posts from users taking the opportunity to publicly appreciate the important people in their lives – a great Christmas message.

Why it works:

Competitions are great ways to encourage engagement on social media. In fact, they can increase the reach of a brand by an average of 34% of new customers. Plus, over 60% of social media users are known to share competitions with their friends – meaning even more engagement for your brand. 

At Christmastime, the message of the campaign (‘giving thanks’) was particularly timely, and undoubtedly encouraged audiences young and old to get into the festive spirit for the chance to win. 

2. Starbucks - #CarryTheMerry

Every year, coffee fans look out for the return of Starbucks’ iconic red cups, officially marking the start of the festive season

And, since 2015, the brand have encouraged users to share their images of the seasonal cups to enter the annual Christmas #RedCupContest – which saw the top five posts receive a prize of $500. 

Last year, the #CarryTheMerry campaign tapped into this same photo-opportunity, giving Gen Z users an excuse to buy not only a hot drink from them, but also a picture-perfect post idea.

Why it works:

User-generated content is a powerful marketing tool. 

We recently shared how to tap into communities of UGC creators to further the reach of your marketing campaigns, and StarbucksChristmas campaigns have historically been very effective at doing just that. 

Gen Z likes to get involved with the brands that they support – and, coupled with the potent FOMO-feeling of ‘missing out’ on the thing that everyone else seems to have, this campaign certainly succeeded at directing a flood of social media traffic into real stores.

3. Savage X Fenty - #TisTheSavage

Launching her newest limited-edition holiday line, Rihanna took to Instagram with a sneak peak of the collection, captioned with ‘holiday szn bout to be Xtra af #TisTheSavage’. 

Making waves on social media is something the pop star is known for – recently, her post that showed her holding up a football quickly surpassed 7 million likes and trended across all social platforms. 

But it was the timing and community inclusion of Rihanna’s Christmas launch which saw this branded campaign be such a holiday success.

Why it works:

Headed-up by global superstar Rhianna, and famous for their commitment to diversity, the Savage X Fenty brand was always guaranteed to make waves amongst Gen Z audiences. But it was the campaign’s use of social media influencers which really saw it grow. 

Sharing their own picks from the new collection, and always using the #TisTheSavage hashtag, the brand’s ambassadors helped to keep the hype around the line drop high – encouraging more users to check out the website… just in time for the gift-giving season. 

The best TikTok Christmas marketing campaigns

As Gen Z’s favourite social media platform – and one that 20% spend up to 5h hours on dailyTikTok should form a key element of your Christmas campaigns

Our favourites have the perfect balance between TikTok-specific elements, and the classic Christmas feel-good factors:

1. Pret - #JoyWithPret

Coffee brand Pret invested heavily in TikTok in recent years, and their #JoyWithPret branded hashtag campaign was one particular success from that increased focus on video-outreach. 

The campaign saw them encouraging users to share what gave them joy during the festive season – and influencers soon got involved with the hashtag too, helping to increase its reach and raise the engagement across the platform.

@grandadjoe1933 #ad Thanks for always bringing me Christmas Joy @brookepaintain .Tell us your #JoyWithPret #Ad ♬ LA LA LAND (Part 1) - Official Sound Studio

Why it works:

Aside from the involvement of influencers, which we all know will boost the performance of any campaign, it was the gentle messaging of this Christmas campaign which really made it a success. 

Pret made sure to provide an easy prompt for users to get involved with – upping their chance of user-generated content, and allowing users to show off their own creativity. 

This, coupled with the use of Top View ads that directed users towards the branded hashtag challenge, meant that users had every reason and opportunity to get involved with the trend. 

2. Otto - #FREUDICHHART (rejoice hard)

German e-commerce brand Otto made waves in 2019 with their highly successful Christmas campaign, and it’s still one of the best examples of a brand making the most of the holiday season on the platform. 

They launched the branded hashtag challenge#FreudichHart’, which encouraged users to share their reactions to gifts they were ‘given’ by a branded effect that worked as a ‘gift generator’. 

The challenge ran for five days in the lead up to Christmas Eve, and attracted more than 250 million video views – as well as high levels of Gen Z engagement. 

@pralinakarina #ANZEIGE was wünscht ihr euch zu Weihnachten?🤗🎄✨🎁 #FreuDichHart @otto_de #arbeiten ♬ #FreuDichHart - OTTO

Why it works:

With a filter that worked as a gift guide as well as a flag to the brand, the challenge really worked to introduce the Otto brand’s offerings to a wider audience of young people. 

And since funny Christmas campaigns are always a hit with Gen Z, the inclusion of more outrageous items within the ‘gift generator’ worked to ensure that the content didn’t go stale – and some creators were able to make engaging, amusing videos based on the filter alone as a prompt. 

With a focus on silly, upbeat Christmas cheer, the campaign was a catchy way to further the brand recognition amongst younger audiences, and the whole-profile approach to the campaign (which resembled an advent calendar) also meant that the brand benefited from a 19.62% clickthrough rate to the challenge page – far above the benchmark. 

3. TK Maxx - #ChristmasToTheMaxx

The #TKMaxxTalentShow was a TikTok highlight during the 2021 Christmas campaigns season. 

Talent shows are rife around this time of the year, and TK Maxx’ TikTok marketing strategy played into the message of their TV ad, which featured a young boy finally getting the chance to perform – in a pair of very snazzy blue boots. 

The TikTok challenge encouraged users to get involved in a virtual show, and post videos highlighting their own unique talents using the hashtag, filter, and branded audio.

Why it works:

The fashion and homeware retailer really understood what makes TikTok such a popular platform amongst Gen Z audiences: the chance to join in. 83% of TikTokers aren’t just viewers of the platform’s videos, they also make content themselves. 

With this campaign, TK Maxx gave users the chance to celebrate their own talents – whatever they are – and offered a branded effect xmas backdrop and audio that made polished video creation even easier. 

On a purely technical level, the campaign successfully directs users towards the brand’s landing page, with no casual viewer unable to avoid associating the campaign with TK Maxx’s branding. And, with over 7.3 billion views to the hashtag – it’s clear the campaign landed perfectly. 

We recently worked with sportswear brand Ellesse to showcase TikTokers’ talents – and accrued 4.2 billion views in the process. Read more about the campaign here.

The best TV ad campaigns

Every year, the best TV Christmas ad campaigns trend on social media as users react to and discuss them with their peers. Some even become cultural markers of their own during the festive season. Here are our favourite christmas campaigns from last year that lit up our TV screens and made a splash with Gen Z: 

1. Coca-Cola - Real Magic

Coca-Cola has to top our list of iconic TV ads. For many young people, their ‘Holidays are Coming’ ad featuring a young boy running out to see the Santa Claus and fairy-light-covered Coca-Cola vans driving in a parade has marked the beginning of the festive season

After bringing that iconic ad back for 2020, in 2021 Coca-Cola released a new ad, with a markedly different message. Take a look for yourself.

Why it works:

Tearjerker ads certainly aren’t uncommon around the holiday season, but they’re not always done as well as this one – which made a point of emphasising togetherness above all else. 

The ad works precisely because it does not heavily feature the brand’s product, instead selling a vision of a community Christmas that appeals to Gen Z’s overwhelming (70%) desire for a community sense of ‘belonging’.  

2. John Lewis - Unexpected Guest

It’s no secret that the department store sets themselves the impossible task every year of living up to their status as the king of Christmas TV ad campaigns – and last year their offering followed the story of a 14-year-old boy befriending an alien. 

The ad was a perfect mix of new experiences and familiar traditions, which helped to create a more inclusive message.

Why it works:

This ad tapped into the social feeling of consumers, who were having a harder time engaging with the magic of the Christmas season with its message of creating, ‘a Christmas as magical as your first’. 

Cleverly, John Lewis also ensured that their campaign outreach was multi-level, with a section of their website dedicated purely to the ad. This ensured visitors could be more engaged with the ad, including by shopping the products included within it, alongside watching behind-the-scenes moments with director interviews and more. 

Gen Z loves behind-the-scenes content – it appeals to their appreciation for authenticity and transparency. So this was a great way to give the campaign longevity and pick up more elements that Gen Z appreciated.

3. Aldi - A Christmas Carrot

Putting a spin on Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, supermarket brand Aldi released an animated TV ad starring their popular Kevin the Carrot and a new face: Ebanana Scrooge. 

The ad was packed full of little references that keen-eyed viewers hunted for – including a Cuthbert caterpillar being arrested by two ‘sour lemons’, which was a lighthearted poke at their copyright battle with M&S

The rewatchability and cutesiness of the ad made it an instant hit – and one of our top picks. 

Why it works:

The overall message of the campaign was summed up in the final line of the ad: ‘for you to be happy, you need to be kind.’ 

And the brand didn’t just talk the talk – they backed-up their campaign with the pledge to work with footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford (who appears in the ad as a radish), to donate 1.8 million meals to families in need over the festive season

Christmas charity campaigns are always a hit, as the ‘season of giving’ brings people closer together – and, this year, this kind of campaign slant will be appreciated by all audiences. 

What Gen Z wants this Christmas

This December, it’s more important – and perhaps more tricky – than ever to capture Gen Zers’ attention. 

During a Christmas period of tightening belts, your christmas marketing campaign will need to hit the right note to inspire Gen Z to trust your brand, and to want to show their support via holiday purchases

Communicating value will be key. As will emphasising your brand’s social values – especially around Gen Z’s key concerns, such as mental health, climate change, and equality. 

Of course, don’t lose sight of the overall feel of your campaign, either. Despite the challenges this year, young consumers are still hoping for the holiday season to be a time of joy. Don’t be afraid to embrace the fun. 

As the experts on Gen Z marketing, we’re well-versed in parlaying any Christmas campaign into an engaging social media campaign that will win over young consumers. Our influencer model also means we’re able to deliver multiple creative ideas in a short amount of time, and quickly double down on the strategies that work, so you can get the most out of your ad spend. Get in touch to find out how we’ll level up your Christmas marketing, straight away.

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